The launch of a new additive manufacturing center, at the building formerly known as the HEAT Center in Aberdeen, was celebrated Friday morning as government, military and industry leaders work to develop Harford County as a hub for research and development on 3-D printing components for civilian and military use.
The county-owned facility is taking on the name of the program it is hosting, which is called Advanced Manufacturing, Materials and Processes, or AMMP.
“This facility will be the new epicenter for AMMP, bringing together powerhouse institutions, academic partners and defense companies to develop tomorrow’s technologies,” Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said during the launch event, held in a heated tent in the HEAT Center parking lot.
About 150 people attended the three-and-a-half hour celebration, which included remarks from local, state and federal elected, and appointed officials and the industry partners collaborating on the AMMP program.
The program is an initiative of the Michigan-based National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, which is partnering with the Army Research Laboratory, the local, state and federal governments, and companies involved in engineering and manufacturing.
Glassman noted the HEAT Center is about 4 miles from Aberdeen Proving Ground, which has been in Harford County for more than a century and is the county’s largest employer with 21,000 workers.
The Army post, throughout its history, has been a premier center for research, development and testing of military weapons and equipment, and it continues that mission today, along with other areas such as public health, defending the U.S. from nuclear, chemical or biological attacks, recovering those weapons around the globe, even conducting background checks.
A key component of AMMP, according to officials, is to develop ways soldiers can use 3-D printing to create replacement parts for damaged equipment in the field rather than waiting on a lengthy supply chain.
“Together, we will help shape the future of advanced manufacturing right here in Harford County, Maryland,” Glassman said.
Rebecca Taylor, senior vice president for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, said later that AMMP is meant to be off of the post so academics, small and medium-sized businesses representatives, and students can get access as industry and the Army develop new technology related to additive manufacturing.
The program is not in the HEAT Center building, although projects have been underway or in development prior to Friday’s formal launch, according to Taylor.
She, along with Glassman, said improvements must be made to the building to accommodate 3-D manufacturing materials and equipment before it is occupied.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured $38 million in federal funds to support AMMP — $23 million in fiscal 2018 and $15 million through the fiscal 2019 defense appropriations bill.
Van Hollen, who thanked his fellow Maryland senator, Democrat Ben Cardin, and Maryland’s House delegation for their support, was among the speakers.
State Del. Mary Ann Lisanti was another speaker. The Harford County Democrat secured $100,000 in state bond money during the 2017 Maryland General Assembly session.
“Once the state of Maryland invests, everyone else is going to follow suit,” Lisanti said.
She said later that she hopes to make APG and the surrounding area “our epicenter for science and technology” in Harford County.
“What they learn here [at AMMP] will have spinoff effects,” Van Hollen later told reporters. “You never know exactly what you’re doing to discover.”
He said he has seen manufacturing firms put 3-D printing to use or incorporate it in their development plans.
Van Hollen said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, was another partner in securing funding for AMMP. He acknowledged the example of bipartisanship when Congress is fractured along party lines on many other issues.
“Amid all the division and chaos, there are some good-news stories, and this is one of them,” Van Hollen said.
Charles “Chuck” Hull, the inventor of the stereolithography process used in commercial 3-D printing, was another speaker. The co-founder and chief technology officer for the company 3D Systems later told an Aegis reporter more about the 35-year-old practice.
He said 3-D printing can be used to create metal, polymer, plastic, ceramic and “biological” parts which could help recreate human tissue.
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“I think it’s much too early understand how advanced manufacturing is going to affect military supply a generation from now,” he said. “The goal is to make the armed services more effective and to make them less dependent on stocking a lot of parts in depot.”